Freeport’s Owen Howarth (16) beats Traip’s Ryan Perkins (12) to ball before lofting it over the keeper for his first varsity goal on Saturday. (Eric Maxim / The Times Record)

FREEPORT  — With the successes of area boys high school soccer teams last year, expectations and goals are high for the squads as the 2019 season is underway starting today.

Freeport reached the State B Final a year ago, losing to Presque Isle, 3-2, in two overtimes, Mt. Ararat captured the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference title before falling to Lewiston, 1-0, in the A North regional final, while Brunswick and Morse each dropped quarterfinal matches after making the postseason.

Freeport

Playing in its first state championship since 1978, the Falcons enjoyed success under first-year coach Bob Strong, finishing with a 9-3-2 record. The team knocked off Leavitt, Greely and Cape Elizabeth to reach the title game.

Freeport graduated a solid senior class, but a heavy junior class from a season ago puts 11 seniors on this year’s edition. 

“Once again we are laden with seniors,” Strong said. “After graduating 13 from last year, we return with 11 seniors on this year’s roster. With that said, only five of them were full time varsity players last year. We anticipate this to be a rebuilding year.”

Gabe Wagner will replace Atticus Patrick in net. The senior has not seen significant time in goal, but Strong has plenty of confidence in him.

“He’s a tremendous athlete,” the coach added. “We will miss his physicality as a field player, but he’s willing to make a sacrifice and play goalkeeper for us.”

Jesse Bennell, Will Winter and Sam Larochelle are all returning and will provide leadership to the team. Ethan Prescott and Cam Strong are two junior midfielders who will be relied upon to provide stability, while sophomore Owen Howarth and senior transfer Finn Sheehan are expected to provide a scoring punch.

Strong expects Yarmouth to be the “heavyweight” in the Western Maine Conference, followed by York and Greely, as neither lost much talent to graduation.

With question marks still looming, Coach Strong expects players to fill into roles as the season gets underway this evening at home with Gray-New Gloucester (6 p.m.).

“We still have some very big question marks about who will be anchoring the back with Sam (Larochelle),” the coach said.

Mt. Ararat’s Mason Brigham, front, battles with an Edward Little defender during a contest in 2018 at Riverside Field in Topsham. (Eric Maxim / The Times Record)

“We expect the players to find roles as we move into the first few weeks of the season.”

Mt. Ararat

The Eagles also graduated 13 players from last year’s team, including top scorer Travis Nadeau, Max Spelke, Alex Bryant and Maximo Varela, just to mention a few.

While only three starters return from a year ago, coach Jack Rioux will rely on the solid returning core to replace these talented athletes.

“Lost a lot of great players and a lot of great kids to graduation,” the coach said. “It’s been an interesting preseason to see who is going to step-up and be a leader for us this year.  There are a lot of spots open and kids are working hard and fighting for those spots.”

James Singleton returns in net to anchor the defense. Mason Brigham has been stepping up as a leader on the team and his experience from playing in big games a year ago will help the younger guys out according to Rioux. Nolen Timberlake has had a solid preseason and will look to make an impact this year with another year under his belt.

Other returning players are — Eli Ouellette, Marcus Steinman, Elias Theberge, Sebastian Varela, Tristian Zell, and Trevor York. Rioux welcomes newcomers Ewan Alexander, Trevor Brown, Tyler Gaudreau, Will Hagan, Zander Kirk, Spencer LeClair, John Martin, Sean Rethi, Nathaniel Smith, Carson Taylor, Jonah Zell, Ryan Robertson and Jess Dasch to the varsity squad.

“We have improved every day we have stepped on the field and the goal is to get in to playoffs and then see what can happen,” said Rioux.

The Eagles open the season Tuesday at home, at Riverside Field against Brunswick (3 p.m.)

Morse

The Shipbuilders graduated six seniors from last season, including captain Ethan Pascuzzo, Miles Bobbe, Christian Keenan, Jacob Brochu, Jack Komilov and Mitchell Whorff. All contributed greatly to the team in their own ways and will be missed according to coach Chuck Reece.

Nine players with significant varsity experience return to the roster, seven of them starters from last year, on a team that lost to Leavitt in the B quarterfinals, 2-1 on penalty kicks.

Returning are seniors Gavin Hanna, Sam Kirkpatrick, Isaak Flaming, Alden Harkins, and Asa Hodgdon. Hodgdon was a team captain last year and looks to return to this role this season the coach said.

“He is a pace setter for the team with a great work ethic,” Reece added.

Flaming will be in the midfield where he saw multiple starts and will help control the ball. Harkins will help shape Morse’s defense with Aaron Landel and Maxon Brochu. Both juniors were starters last season and bring speed and athleticism to the back. 

Senior Gavin Hanna and junior Lucas Ouimette will be returning to the wing spots that they both occupied last season. Reece feels “both bring a different style of play compatible with Morse’s offense.” 

Sam Kirkpatrick has been playing a utility role thus far in preseason and will give the Shipbuilders a needed spark on the offensive end when needed. Juniors Brenton Cahill, Avery Smith, Ivan Wolf, and Josh Haycock as well as sophomores Nathaniel Jewett, Elliot Harkins, Trevor Hanna, Drew Marecek, and Quintin Webster are all battling for positions in the starting lineups. Freshmen Jason Bussey and Kiernan Mann are looking to steal minutes and establish themselves as varsity ready early in their high school careers.

Morse opens the season at home on Friday against Winslow at 5 p.m.

Lisbon

Lisbon has a new coach at the top this season, Shawn Rhoda comes to the Greyhounds after leading the Freeport junior varsity team the past 16 years, replacing Dan Sylvester.

Lisbon was 5-8-1 last year, missing the playoff after seven consecutive trips. An injury to top-scorer Noah Austin in the preseason set the Greyhounds back from the beginning, forced to start seven freshmen in 2018.

Rhoda will look for leadership from players like seniors Jack Tibbets, DJ Douglass, Jacob George and Justin Violette to replace his seniors from a year ago. Sophomores Elijah Fullerton, Ethan Brown, Caleb Phillips and Hunter Brissette are players to look out for according to Rhoda, and Sean Moore will return as goalie after his freshman year in net. Newcomer Danny Levesque figures to contribute as well.

Lisbon is slated to visit Spruce Mountain tomorrow in its Mountain Valley Conference opener at 4 p.m.

Richmond

After an appearance in the D State final in 2017, the Bobcats entered the 2018 postseason as the fifth seed, losing in a quarterfinal match with rival Buckfield, 1-0.

Coach Peter Gardner has been happy with the three weeks of practice thus far, but the longtime coach understands there is a lot of work to be done.

“Kids have worked really hard this preseason with practices, scrimmages and our shootout last weekend,” the coach said. “We have six freshmen coming into the program, we’re going to need to integrate them and they’re all going to have to play.”

Along with senior captains Ben Gardner (midfield), Adam Beaulieu (center back), Justin Vachon (center back) and Dakotah Gilpatric (forward/midfield), coach Gardner is looking at Nick Stillwell (midfield), who took a year off and is returning, and Brendan Roberge (back) to fill in some holes left because of graduation, injuries and eligibility.

Senior Kyle Tilton will man the goal, he will be joined by freshman Conor Vachon as the latter will work into some games to gain experience. Juniors Andrew Vachon, Derek Barrett and Owen Stewart, along with sophomores Cole Alexander and Chance Taylor return with another year of varsity under their belts.

Along with Conor Vachon, Lucas Cody, James Goodall, Ben Johnston, Max Trash and Max Biselli are all freshmen the coaches will look upon.

“We had to change some positions around to fill holes,” coach Gardner said, who is assisted by his son Ryan. “They’ve been listening well and are positive to our changes as we take one day at a time.”

Richmond begins its slate on Saturday at home against Rangeley (4 p.m.)

Wiscasset/Boothbay

Having not played in the postseason since 2016, Coach Chris Cossette and the Wolverines are poised to return. A 6-8 campaign a year ago had them on the outside of the playoffs, but Cossette thinks they’ll be even more competitive this year.

“We’re definitely a young team with a good mix of upperclassmen,” Cossette said. “They may not be an experienced group, but they work hard to get better every day.”

Seniors Josh Jones and Jordan Espeut, along with juniors Brian Foye and John Hodson all return with experience from Cossette. Jones will make the transition from midfield to back and Espeut will be vital to the Wolverines both offensively and defensively in the midfield.

Juniors Aiden Foley and Matt Eckert are both returning after a year away after playing their freshman year, both will add depth to the team. Returning sophomores are Gavin Loupe (back), Garrett Cossette (midfield), Chance Blagdon, Adam Hodson and keeper LJ Travis. Travis saw time in net last year as a backup and has taken to the position right from the start and is anxious to get on the field according to Cossette.

Freshman Payton Blagdon and Karter Cooper are both quickly adapting to the program.

The Wolverines open the season at home on Wednesday, against Carrabec (4 p.m.).

Brunswick

The Dragons will look to build on last season’s success after finishing 7-5-2, good enough for the No. 4 seed in Class A North. Brunswick lost to Mt. Blue, 3-1 in a quarterfinal match.

Captain Evertt Horch returns as the “engine that drives (the team) up top” according to head coach Mark Roma.

“When he’s healthy, he’s one of the best players in the state,” the coach said.

Roma also returns senior captain Josh Musica, junior captain Lane Foushee (midfield), Luke Chesldine (back), left-footed Milan Van Leer and Taylor Coenradt (back).

“Josh is very versatile, he can play almost anywhere, he’s a hard worker,” Roma said. “Foushee controls the midfield as he sees the field incredibly well and the way he distributes the ball makes us better offensively and defensively.”

After graduating a better part of their defensive players, including three-year starter Kian Murray and Emmet Taub, the Dragons will continue to move pieces to fit the team’s strength. 

“We have a lot of new players and we’re getting the new guys to fit,” Roma said as he mentions four or five new players to the program that have recently located to Brunswick after seeking asylum in Portland this past summer. “We have some good individual players out of that group, but they’re still learning the team game, as well as the language. I am very proud of my team and how they have taken these new players in.”

One part remains the same from a year ago is Jack McDiarmid in net, this will be his second year starting.

“It’s a great piece of mind knowing we have him back there,” Roma said of his senior keeper. “He can help the players on defense and help position defenders.”

Brunswick opens its tough KVAC schedule this evening hosting Oxford Hills (5:15 p.m.). The Dragons then travel to Mt. Ararat on Tuesday (3 p.m.) and Hampden Academy Sept. 13 (6 p.m.) to close out the week.

“This is one of the toughest conferences in the state, if not the toughest,” Roma added. “We’ve had three of the last four state champions, Lewiston has made everyone else get better.”

Pine Tree Academy

The Breakers enjoyed success last year, qualifying as the eight seed in Class D South with an 8-6 record, earning a preliminary win against Rangeley (3-1), before falling to eventual state champion North Yarmouth Academy, 7-2.

Coach Leszek Krzywon and his team open the season Friday at home against Seacoast Christian (2 p.m.) After a week of no games, the Breakers travel to Thomas College on Sept. 14 to take on Valley at 8:30 p.m. Other road contests include — Temple, also at Thomas College (Sept. 19), Chop Point (Sept. 28 and Oct. 1), and Great Portland Christian (Oct. 15).

Home contests on the schedule are — Seacoast Christian (Sept. 21 in Topsham), GPC (Sept. 24), Rangeley (Oct. 4), Temple (Oct. 8), Chop Point (Oct. 17), Valley (Oct. 19 in Topsham) and close out the season with GPC (Oct. 22).

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